by Greta Yeoman
Tekapo’s new site for a 125-year-old telescope is beginning to take shape.
The base of the Victorian-era Brashear telescope was installed at the new lakeside site of the soon-to-be-opened Earth and Sky astronomy centre last week.
The centre is a project by Earth and Sky Limited Partnership – a joint venture between Ngai Tahu Tourism and the Murray and Ozawa families.
While the telescope is part of the astronomy centre, it is being funded through the Tomorrow’s Skies Charitable Trust, which was established by Earth and Sky partners Graeme Murray and Hide Ozawa, in 2009.
The aim of the trust is to support the conservation of the night sky and astronomy education in the Mackenzie.
However, it has also been seeking $1.4million in public funding to restore and install the telescope on the Lake Tekapo site.
The astronomy centre – expected to cost $11million – was also the recipient of $3million from the then-National Government’s Tourism Growth Partnership fund in 2016.
While a Ngai Tahu Tourism spokeswoman was unable to confirm how much had been raised through the trust so far, she told The Courier on Friday that the trust was “continuing to seek funding”.
Restoration of the telescope alone has been expected to cost $500,000.
The telescope was donated to the trust in 2016 by the University of Canterbury, which had been given to it by the University of Pennsylvania in 1963.
It had been too expensive for the university to build the facilities for the telescope at Mt John Observatory – just up the road from the Lake Tekapo township – so it had been in storage in Yaldhurst for decades.
The 1200kg plinth of the telescope was installed last week and is the first of three parts of the telescope – which is constructed out of brass, iron, steel and wood – to be installed.
Earth and Sky business manager Craig Jones said the next step would be constructing the floor around the base of the telescope, then the telescope itself would be installed in “a few weeks”.
The dome housing the telescope will sit to the west of the main astronomy centre building, which is expected to open in “autumn 2019”.
The Tomorrow’s Skies Charitable Trust plans to provide free astronomy sessions at the centre, educating an estimated 2000 New Zealand school pupils each year.